Good 2 Great – Confronting the Brutal Facts

In my continued discussion on the book, Good to Great by Jim Collins and his research team determined what key things differentiate a good company from a great company, and how this may apply in the LDS Church, we now discuss the next concept:

Confronting the Brutal Facts

Too many companies and organizations fail because they do not confront the brutal facts. Problems arise, but are often ignored because no one wants to deal with the facts that what has been done in the past does not work now, or worse: never worked but was part of a long held tradition.

Such ignored issues may include a product that is severely flawed (Morton Thiokol’s space shuttle E-ring), a process that is severely flawed (how banks, the market and the US government dealt with housing loans), a belief that hiding one’s problems from everyone will give time to fix things (Enron), etc.  Each of these major disasters (Morton Thiokol, Housing Loans, Enron) could have been avoided if the facts had been openly dealt with.

Good to Great teaches us some key concepts:

  1. Develop a “Culture of Truth”.
  2. People always have an opportunity to be heard.
  3. The truth is heard by those who need to hear it.
  4. Lead with questions, not answers.
  5. Ask good questions that encourage discussion and debate.
  6. Engage in dialogue and debate, not coercion.
  7. Conduct autopsies without blame. Learn from failure.
  8. Build red flag mechanisms that turn information into information that cannot be ignored.

These are concepts that are of absolute necessity for a church Council to function properly. Whether the Quorum of Twelve, a ward Council, or a family council, nothing can truly be resolved and fixed without a process as listed above.

If parents or leaders tend to lie or hide skeletons in the closet, then issues of trust arise. I praise the Church for opening up its archives for the Joseph Smith Papers Project, John Turner’s Brigham Young book, etc. We can now deal with issues such as polygamy/polyandry, Mountain Meadows Massacre, etc.

When lay members and those on the councils feel the leaders are hearing and listening to them, it opens the door for discussion on what things do not work and which solutions are possible.  Those who can make the changes then get the chance to hear of the problems, so they can be problem solvers.

Good questions that stir up discussion are necessary to get to the root of issues.  I’ve been in units that the Council will spend their entire time talking on how sad they feel for a certain individual or family that is struggling, yet will not get to the discussion on how to resolve problems.  While nothing gets done, people suffer.

If something goes wrong, do an autopsy.  Do not blame anyone, but get to the root causes for the problem, and jointly seek how to resolve the issue.  Where possible problems can arise, setting up a system of red flags means you can catch problems early, rather than after the crash that requires an autopsy.

Building a culture of truth and openess should be extremely important for any organization, but particularly for families and church councils.


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About rameumptom

Gerald (Rameumptom) Smith is a student of the gospel. Joining the Church of Jesus Christ when he was 16, he served a mission in Santa Cruz Bolivia (1978=1980). He is married to Ramona, has 3 stepchildren and 7 grandchildren. Retired Air Force (Aim High!). He has been on the Internet since 1986 when only colleges and military were online. Gerald has defended the gospel since the 1980s, and was on the first Latter-Day Saint email lists, including the late Bill Hamblin's Morm-Ant. Gerald has worked with FairMormon, More Good Foundation, LDS.Net and other pro-LDS online groups. He has blogged on the scriptures for over a decade at his site: Joel's Monastery ( He has the following degrees: AAS Computer Management, BS Resource Mgmt, MA Teaching/History. Gerald was the leader for the Tuskegee Alabama group, prior to it becoming a branch. He opened the door for missionary work to African Americans in Montgomery Alabama in the 1980s. He's served in two bishoprics, stake clerk, high council, HP group leader and several other callings over the years. While on his mission, he served as a counselor in a branch Relief Society presidency.

4 thoughts on “Good 2 Great – Confronting the Brutal Facts

  1. When I was on the high council, we definitely discussed issues in the stake with brutal honesty. There was a huge amount of disagreement. We would make recommendations, and many of the recommendations clearly contradicted each other. The stake president would listen to all of the discussion and then make a decision. Once he made a decision, we would unify behind that decision, even if we disagreed. This is a model of how people can maintain their individuality but still be one in purpose. Good companies with good CEOs also follow this model, btw.

  2. The “brutal facts” of a religion are a bit different than the brutal facts of a company has to confront to survive in a capitalist jungle.

    Some of the brutal facts in a religion, like polyandry for example, could be interpreted rather as “the meat” rather than the milk of the gospel: really advanced, or rather purposely faith-shaking Abrahamic trials given by God. Interpreting them as “brutal facts” makes them seem like problems in our church we don’t want to face up to, the solution being to admit something like Joseph Smith had a sex addiction, or some other faith destroying prospect. Rather, these problems should be interpreted as an important dimension of the Mormon faith experience.

    I agree that some transparency is good in a church. But I also recognize the right and wisdom of our leaders to keep things less transparent, for the sake of the majority of the flock.

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